Posted: April 17, 2019 by Kelly Murphy-Redd

To paraphrase a saying: If it’s already built, they might come.

If economic development goals are retaining and helping expand existing businesses and attracting new businesses, then maintaining and improving existing infrastructure and creating new infrastructure are key components to achieving those goals.

Companies who already exist in a community rely on existing infrastructure to do business. Everything from high speed data transfer to the employees being able to travel to work every day. Filling in that pothole in front of the building is vital to doing business.

Businesses who wish to expand, need to know that plans for infrastructure maintenance and improvements exist. For example, the municipality needs to be able to handle any increased requirements for utilities, parking, signage and increased use of roads. In a heavy rain, does the parking lot flood due to inadequate drainage?

Businesses considering relocating to a community are looking to mitigate risk. They make plans in advance and expect communities in the running to be prepared. A community with an aging infrastructure has to repair and upgrade. A community with no infrastructure has to build. A company will not decide to locate on your site without a specific plan and timeline for infrastructure to be in place.

Leslie Wagner, Senior Principal, Ginovus wrote: “Companies may look to specific real estate sites that are infrastructure-ready to avoid time delays and increased project costs. Any delay in completing a project represents a loss of business revenue, therefore pre-certifying/permitting sites as "shovel ready" is a common-sense approach to attracting new business and industry. Most real estate decision-makers understand that site certification - which includes collection and authentication of infrastructure elements including utilities and transportation along with environmental site studies - will translate to a mitigation of project risk from both a timing and budget perspective.”

Our EDC has succeeded in certifying the Bob Sikes Airport and Okaloosa Industrial Airpark. The EDC also put together a plan and are in the process of implementing the plan to extend water and sewer service lines to the Shoal River Ranch “Gigasite.”

Funding is always an issue with infrastructure investment. The half-cent sales tax approved by Okaloosa voters last November is one important way our community is working to create a funding source to repair and upgrade infrastructure.

There are many private company investment infrastructure projects across the United States. The state of Virginia sold an 80-year-old bridge to a company who tore it down and built a new one with private dollars and made their investment back by charging a toll. This saved the state millions of dollars and improved transportation infrastructure for citizens.

The bottom line is; whatever your infrastructure situation, companies require a time frame by which to make decisions. The best time for your community to build infrastructure is now; before companies pass you by.